Girls at Neumo’s, Seattle | 17 November 2009
“We’re back, back in denim”, Girls (SF) front guy Christopher Owens told the audience at Neumo’s after being asked how he like Seattle. He was referring to the fact that they were here earlier this year at the Capitol Hill Block Party, but he was also referencing Lawrence Hayward’s post Felt band Denim. Listening to Girls’ debut Album I had this inkling that they were Felt and Denim fans. A lot of the guitars have a spindly feel to them that reminds me of late period Felt, but really it was just a hunch. American bands liking felt is nothing new, the Tyde come to immediate mind and a couple songs on the new Pants Yell! have a similar thing going on. I digress, back to Girls’ Felt affectation. On hearing Owens utter the title to Lawrence’s first post-Felt album was pretty much all I needed to confirm my suspicions.
Don’t get the wrong idea. It’s not all Felt, Denim (and Go-Kart Mozart) with Girls, the album has this watery, twangy, rockabilly sound to it that gives me this hallucination of Roy Orbison and Duane Eddy playing Santo & Johnny’s Sleepwalking in some underwater dive bar. The album also has the huge shoegaze bliss-out of Morning Light and the obvious Beach Boys/Jan & Dean reference in their song Big Bad Mean Motherfucker, and don’t forget Owens singing sounds a little like Elvis Costello. I’m into all of the above and have been loving this record for past few months, but the overall aesthetic of the record has this Felt/Denim feel to it that seems to transcend all the other influences that color the album.
I am certainly not alone in liking the record. Girls seem to get tons of glowing reviews for their album, but live they don’t seem to light people up. Actually, I don’t think I’ve read anywhere that said Girls are amazing live. I can’t really say that they were amazing, but they were really good. Most of their songs don’t really make you want to dance, they’re mellow dark affairs that revel in the kind of atmosphere they can create and live that is what they did. Songs like Solitude and Ghost Mouth were prime of examples of that gloomy outlook set to ethereal atmospherics. The heart of their set cranked up the energy level a noticeable amount with the trio of songs Lust for Life, Hellhole Ratrace and Morning Light getting everybody going. Owens seemed to be feeling it too, at times crouching down with his guitar in an almost Chuck Berry pose during some of the big guitar parts. I especially liked how the noise freak-out they did at the end of Hellhole Ratrace overlapped seamlessly with the shoegaze miasma of Morning Light. The rest of the set, the band settled back into a few more moody, but no less compelling songs. For an encore Owens came back out with his acoustic guitar, donned a gold trimmed baseball hat from someone in the audience and did few songs solo, one of which he called Broken Dreams Club which you can download from Living Ears along with a few other acoustic songs they did for radio station KDHX.
Something that may also be of interest to those who think I’m off my rocker with the Felt and Denim references, the French website MagicRPM has a three part conversation between Girls’ Christopher Owens and Chet “JR” White with Lawrence of Felt/Denim/Go-Kart Mozart. Dig Lawrence’s baseball cap with tinted blue visor.